Change the Prepositions in Your Life & You Change Your Life

The morning after Christmas, what I want most is to forget the saran-wraped left over turkey in the fridge and the pine needles tinkling Charlie Brown-like off the mantle, and just run away.







Just high tail it out of Dodge and mid-life and strangling regrets and the centrifugal force of time.

How do you run away hard from who you are and who you fail and who you find impossible to be?

Don’t ever be fooled that it’s just Martha Stewart innocuous: Perfectionism can be fatalism.

My Dad, he used to look at my straight A report card and then look me straight in the eye and say, “Well — maybe your little sister will someday make me proud.”

Old voices that replay in your head how you can’t ever get it right enough can be the hardest to stop.

And when you can’t live up to expectations, you can feel like dying — or running away. I can forget the gospel Truth of Grace faster than you can say Pinterest Perfection and this is the Gospel Truth: preaching gospel to yourself everyday is critical — otherwise it’s your very life that’s in critical condition.

The Oldest Son, he’s in the kitchen, rummaging around in the belly of the fridge, hunting for something to fill those two hollow legs of his.

And I’d sure like to tell it different, but we’ve only got enough time here to go with the truth — he must have overheard me muttering ugliness aloud to myself bent over in the mudroom sorting the darks from the lights and that’s always the wrong order to sort anything.

“Hey Mom?” He closes the fridge door. “If you’re running away?”


If you’re running away? Can you just be back in time to make lunch?

Drop my head, smile sigh into a heap of dirty jeans.

Love that boy.

“Yeah… yeah, I’ll be sure to here to make lunch.”

And I clean up the mess made in the mudroom and in the kitchen and in the living room and when you don’t know how to keep going, you just keep doing the next thing (forward!) and the next thing is always to give thanks.

And it’s when I’m sweeping spruce needles off the table and taking out all the de-needled greenery around the white nativity at the center of the table that I notice — there’s no baby Jesus in the manger.

It’s one day after Christmas — and we’ve already lost Jesus?

“Levi?” I holler for the kid I’d seen fiddling with the nativity during breakfast, the kid who runs the shop vac (because we need it) after every meal. “Levi, where’s Baby Jesus? Did you vacuum him up?” I’m knelt over looking under the table.

“Jesus?” Levi goes to the closet and hauls out the vacuum cleaner. “No, I don’t think so — ” He’s digging through those dust – kangaroos in the bony bowels of the shop vac looking for the carved and swaddling that is supposed to be laying in a manger.

Levi, dust all over his pants, stands at the bottom of the stairs and calls down to the basement: “Hey Kai? Weren’t you playing with baby Jesus at breakfast?”

Kai thunders up the stairs: “Jesus? Playing with Baby Jesus?” He’s lost. We all are. Levi points accusingly at the nativity.

“Oh, that Baby Jesus.” Kai stuffs his hands in his pockets, meanders over to the table. “Yeah — I was sorta, kind of tossing him in the air while I was cleaning off the table,” he looks over at me sheepishly….

“And then,” he wanders into the kitchen.

“Then, he fell under the dishwasher….” Kai lays down on the floor.


I take a deep breath over the kid sprawled out on the kitchen floor looking for Baby Jesus under a 16 year old grubby dishwasher. Kai braves the sticky dark under the dishwasher. “Nope, not there…” Kai brushes crumbs off his hands, rolls over and stares at the ceiling. I rifle through books on the counter. Where in the world could Jesus come down from heaven be? Isn’t this indicative of my heart, a metaphor for my mess?

“Oh — then I had apple cider.” Kai pulls himself up — and I can’t believe it when I look up — he’s ladling out another cup of hot apple cider from the pot on the stove.

He turns around slow, sips even slower.

“MALAKAI! No apple cider!” I fling my hands up like I’m calling down fireballs. “We’re trying to find baby Jesus here!”

Kai looks up from his cup: “I’m just retracing my steps here!”

He slowly takes another sip…

“And then Dad told me to clean up the garage….”

“You mean — ” I put the books down slow on the counter as if I could slow down the wild in the veins — “He could be anywhere in the garage??!!”

Kai grins thinly.

“Great!” I open up the cutlery drawer and I’m standing here looking for Baby Jesus amongst the knives. “One day after Christmas and we’ve already lost baby Jesus!”

And it feels like I lose my sanctification 183 times a day over drawers left open and toilet seats left up and go figure and its just like us and of course, we’re that family who loses Jesus not 24 hours after Christmas and can I still run away and make it back in time to make lunch?

Move all the couches. Pull off all the cushions. Pull out all the kitchen drawers. Kneel on the ice cold garage floor. Beg God.

Why am I fallen and flailing? Why do my kids yell at each other like barracudas right on the way home from church with its Hallelujahs and how can he and I be just two amicable parenting ships passing in the platonic night for far too long and why does the dog tear open the garbage bag and strew soggy bacon remains across the garage floor?

Why am I always broken?

Can I just have Jesus, please?

Please — I really need Jesus and could Jesus please just take even me and I know I don’t need Jesus in a manger — but I’m desperate for more Jesus in me.

And I slump down at the back door, just wanting out.

“Kai — He’s really not in your pocket?”

Kai shakes his head, fumbles around in his pockets — “No, Mom, I already —”

“THERE! Jesus right there in my pocket!” He’s a grinning Cheshire cat with a mile wide apple cider grin.

And I smile weakly and reach for that carved swaddling in Kai’s hand and grip it for all my beating life:

“There — with you all along.”

You can feel lost — and already be found.

You can feel Christ hardly tolerates you — but Christ is 100% FOR You.

You can feel Christ barely wants you — but Christ is Always WITH You.

And I finger that chiseled Christ figurine in my palm —

Kai leans over the arm of the rocking chair, looking down at baby Jesus in my hand, wraps his arm around my shoulder.

“Not just WITH me all along, Mom. But right IN my pocket.”



With. In.




It’s by my bed, one of the 12 top books chosen by Desiring God for 2012—  Paul and Union with Christ —  and I’ve got it dog-eared and underlined it, this study of the 73 “IN Christ” verses in the New Testament, and Karl Barth says that:

“Indeed, believers who are IN Christ acquire and have a direct share in what God first and supremely is in [Christ]…

Union with Christ … is the starting point for everything else that is to be thought and said concerning what makes the Christian —  a Christian.

That… Union with Christ is … the constitutive and descriptive of the actual experience of the believer…”

What if …this was the Year of No Fear? How can you live in fear — when you are living IN Christ?

What if the year was an experiment of living every moment WITH Christ, IN Christ? We can always have as much God as we want.

What if loving people is living IN union WITH Christ? The Year of Koinonia — the year of communion with Christ and community with the Body of Christ.

Loving people is seeing the face of Christ.








Levi cuts it out of two pieces of wood for me, just two letters, and we set it by the fireplace: IN

Caleb stamps it into a bracelet and I wrap it around my wrist, right where the blood runs through the veins, close to the skin: With. IN.

And the year becomes this experiment in living all the moments IN the will of God, IN communion with Christ.

God’s call is never that you do more for Him.

God’s call is always that you do more with Him.

More IN Him.

Your whole life changes when you change your life prepositions.

No more FOR-living. Only WITH-Living. Only IN-Living.

I christen my year with its name, My One Word: {WITH} IN.

And by that two-letter preposition that could change a year and a life, I lay down the swaddled Who found me and beckons:

run away IN to Me.




“For no matter how many promises God has made,

they are “Yes”



2 Corinthians 1:20

The book: My One Word for the Year: Change Your Life With Just One Word

My Previous One Word Names for my years:
The Year of Eucharisteo : The Year of Communion : The Year of Yes: The Year of Here
The Year of Koinonia

Tomorrow: The New Bible Memory Project for 2013